Where's the probe to Europa

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absolutezero

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I just want to throw this out there for a few of you who are smarter than I on this topic. I was watching some documentary the other day about potential places life might exist and of course the old familiar places came up, Mars, Titan, Europa. It got me thinking though on why NASA & JPL are not focusing on Europa?<br /><br />Here you have a world that is almost certain to have a liquid ocean; a place where if life currently exists anywhere it would have to be here; yet there is no sign of a proposed mission to Europa (at least at which I saw ) anywhere! I just finished looking at the future and proposed missions that JPL is working on and not even a single mention of a proposed mission to Europa! <br /><br />While I think it is worthwhile to search Mars for past life, how could the potential for actual life existing now not be invigorating these scientist to put together a serious mission to Europa?<br /><br />I’m not an expert on Europa or what goes through the minds of mission planners and yes, I understand the President has put forth a plan to go to Mars, but seriously folks, check out some of the missions planned by JPL; how could we possibly be choosing some of these over a mission to Europa?<br /><br />~zero<br />
 
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holmec

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Good question! They were thinking about one before but it was MIA in 2006 budget<br /><br />SDC article <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#0000ff"><em>"SCE to AUX" - John Aaron, curiosity pays off</em></font></p> </div>
 
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j05h

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Europa really deserves a comprehensive lander-orbiter mission like Viking. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div align="center"><em>We need a first generation of pioneers.</em><br /></div> </div>
 
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qso1

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It slammed into the "Cost barrier"! <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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willpittenger

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Agreed. I figure the cost of landing on Europa is probably 3 times what it costs to land the same tonnage on Mars. It also would take at least 3 times as long to get there.<br /><br />Complicating matters is a need to wait for technology. We have no way to communicate reliably with a Europan sub. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Will Pittenger<hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Add this user box to your Wikipedia User Page to show your support for the SDC forums: <div style="margin-left:1em">{{User:Will Pittenger/User Boxes/Space.com Account}}</div> </div>
 
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3488

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It is cost & time.<br /><br />A Europa sub can communicate with a ground station via leads, provided it stays within range.<br /><br />It is not even fact that there is a subsurface ocean under Europa's ice, just<br />that the evidence to date, points to the fact that there may well be.<br /><br />So a Europa sub may yet prove to be a moot point anyway.<br /><br />A cryobot would be more useful, to drill or melt down through the ice, with sonar etc.<br /><br />The lander section to have a seismometer, tilt meter, PanCams etc.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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qso1

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From both yours and willpittengers posts, it becomes quickly evident to see how costly such a mission would become. A lot of capability would be needed right off the bat for a Europan mission. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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gunsandrockets

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<I’m not an expert on Europa or what goes through the minds of mission planners and yes, I understand the President has put forth a plan to go to Mars, but seriously folks, check out some of the missions planned by JPL; how could we possibly be choosing some of these over a mission to Europa?><br /><br />Because the kind of mission to Europa you are talking about is what an aquaintance of mine who works at JPL would call a "cadillac mission", as in very expensive. <br /><br />What is a cadillac mission? The Cassini Saturn mission was the last one. In general a mission which takes something as big as a Titan IV to launch is a cadillac mission.
 
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no_way

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I wonder if an Europa Express orbiter by ESA would be doable, derived from Mars Express and Venus Express which already share the same hardware heritage.<br /><br />Or, how long would a SMART-1 like ion propulsion craft take to get there ?<br /><br />Power becomes a problem though, the solar arrays out there arent the best power source. With France embracing nuclear power and being a major force in ESA, i wonder if they ever had plans for space reactors of their own. <br /><br />EDIT: after googling my own question, they have been looking at it, especially in context of probes to Europa and Pluto<br /><br />link<br /><br />Another nice summary for options to power things:<br />http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf82.html<br />ERATO, the french space reactor program is also mentioned.
 
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3488

Guest
Hi no-way.<br /><br />Cannot see why not. A Europa Express would be a great mission, given the successes<br />with both Venus Express & Mars Express. ESA are more than capable of doing this. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /><br />They have Rosetta on route, operating flawlessly & SMART 1 operated without problems.<br /><br />Europa would not be too dificult for them. A joint mission with NASA, ESA & JAXA<br />would be wonderful.<br /><br />ION propulsion would take far too long, for such a mission, think about how long<br />it took for SMART 1 to reach the Moon or DAWN to reach 4 Vesta. These are nearby destinations. <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /><br /><br />The Jupiter system IMO is just far too far for ION propulsion.<br /><br />Undoubtably, the Europa Orbiter needs to achieve Jovecentric orbit first, then hopefully<br />we get some very close science encounters with both Ganymede & Callisto, to help the <br />Europa Orbiter to match up with Europa (as well as get some Ganymede & Callisto <br />science). Jupiter & Io observations would also be <br />carried out during this phase, <br />with the Europa Orbiter looking at Io occassionaly from Europa orbit after arrival into<br />a Polar Orbit around Europa.<br /><br />I would hope the Europa Orbiter could carry a HiRISE / LORRI type camera with a CRISM type<br />intrument too.<br /><br />Could you imagine the global map of Europa with a HiRISE / LORRI type instument? <img src="/images/icons/laugh.gif" /><br /><br />I would love to help plan this mission if it ever happened.<br /><br />Perhaps put a similar craft in orbit arounfd Ganymede & Callisto too at some point.<br /><br />Radiation unfortunately would not allow an Io craft like this (as much as I would <br />love to see it happen). <br /><br />Landers are a must also to Europa, equipped with seismometers, tilt meters & PanCams.<br /><br />But I fear, such a programme will never be funded. <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /><br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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bdewoody

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Another problem that was addressed on one of the science channel programs about exploring Europa is that of contamination. They will not launch a probe or lander to Europa until a way to prevent unwanted hitch hikers from tagging along is developed. We don't want to introduce earthly life forms if there is a chance that life already exists there. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <em><font size="2">Bob DeWoody</font></em> </div>
 
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h2ouniverse

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The big issue fo a Europa orbiter is the radiations.<br />To rad-hard all the electronics you need specific development.<br />Mars Express / Venus Express platforms cannot be used as is.<br />You can use similar mechanical architecture if you want, but many other deisgns are available off-the-shelf. So this is not an issue. The main issue which drives recurrence effect and the cost) is the avionics.<br /><br />Other big aspect is the large propellant mass needed because there are many delta-vs to do (get out from Earth's, climb Sun's grav well to Jupiter, get captured by Jupiter, then get captured by Europa).<br /><br />You also need a communication satellite to avoid having a too large mass memory on-board the radiation-blasted Europa orbiter).<br /><br />With several spacecrafts, things are eased technically, and this paves the way for easier work sharing between NASA, ESA, JAXA...<br /><br />Best regards.
 
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3488

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Hi bdewoody,<br /><br />That was the reason why the Galileo Spacecraft was deorbited into Jupiter on <br />Sunday 21st September 2003. There were fears that a silent, but uncontrollable <br />Galileo Orbiter could impact Europa.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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3488

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Hi Joel,<br /><br />The basic Mars & Venus Express busses & general configurations would still work.<br /><br />The individual instruments would have to be taylored for the inner Jovian system.<br /><br />I do not know how expensive it would be to radiation harden equipment we already <br />have off the shelf? <br /><br />To make it worthwhile, a HiRISE / LORRI type camera, a CRISM type instrument, magnetometers<br />& an ice penetrating RADAR are essential for an orbital mission.<br /><br />A seperate relay would be required further out, perhaps a lagrange of Callisto<br />or even in orbit around Callisto (perhaps carrying out its own mission there), as both Europa & Callisto<br />are often in sight of each other, so<br />transmissions between the two should not be difficult.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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willpittenger

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>ION propulsion would take far too long, for such a mission, think about how long<br />it took for SMART 1 to reach the Moon or DAWN to reach 4 Vesta. These are nearby destinations. <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /><br /><br />The Jupiter system IMO is just far too far for ION propulsion.<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br />Actually, Ion engines accelerate slowly, but only due to the low mass amounts being kicked out the back. Once the get going, craft powered by those engines, like Deep Space 1, can scoot. In fact, despite your statement on Jupiter, the JIMO probe (Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter) would have been powered by a real bonifide nuclear reactor and Ion propulsion.<br /><br /><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Undoubtably, the Europa Orbiter needs to achieve Jovecentric orbit first, then hopefully<br />we get some very close science encounters with both Ganymede & Callisto, to help the<br />Europa Orbiter to match up with Europa (as well as get some Ganymede & Callisto<br />science). Jupiter & Io observations would also be<br />carried out during this phase,<br />with the Europa Orbiter looking at Io occassionaly from Europa orbit after arrival into<br />a Polar Orbit around Europa.<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br />I don't know what the plan for JIMO was. However, it would have had fuel to orbit each Galilean moon. My real problem was with the size. I figure in-orbit assembly would have been required. Forget the previously mentioned Titan IV. Too small. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Will Pittenger<hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Add this user box to your Wikipedia User Page to show your support for the SDC forums: <div style="margin-left:1em">{{User:Will Pittenger/User Boxes/Space.com Account}}</div> </div>
 
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willpittenger

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Actually, we already have to attempt that with everything sent to Mars. With Europa, we have help from Jupiter's radiation belts. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Will Pittenger<hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Add this user box to your Wikipedia User Page to show your support for the SDC forums: <div style="margin-left:1em">{{User:Will Pittenger/User Boxes/Space.com Account}}</div> </div>
 
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comga

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willpittenger "With Europa, we have help (killing hitchhiking microbes) from Jupiter's radiation belts."<br /><br />As I say to Microsoft products: Please, please, please stop helping me. <br /><br />There are extremophiles that tolerate more radiation than most of our electronics. <br /><br />We have not done that good a job of planetary protection for Mars landers. We don't use sterile processing environments and massive disinfectant processes. IMO we are relying on the inhospitability of the current Martian surface to take care of any stray organisms we bring with us. This would be insufficient for probing a warm ocean, which would be the target of a Europa probe.
 
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anthmartian

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I think we have all been exposed to too many documentaries, and magazine or internet articles, stating there is a ocean beneath the ice of Europa right now.<br /><br />There probably is, but for all we now there may not be. We have read it, and seen the CG animations, and watched the documentaries so much though we have begun to just blindly accept the ocean as a fact, when as Andrew says, it is not a fact.<br /><br />It would be a little like fitting Viking 1 and 2 with an outboard motor in order for them to cruise the Martian canals. lets go to this place and find out what is there to explore before we start designing probes that may or may not be needed, or suitable.<br /><br />Developing and sending a submersible probe right now could be looked on as a gamble in the best of circumstances. But to send a sub to a place where there may not be an ocean, all the way Jupiter, seems silly to me.<br /><br />To spend all that money and spend all those resources, and to deprive other worthy missions of money or go aheads, based on a hunch? ( a very well educated hunch i admit! ) Just seems plain wrong to me.<br /><br />I feel a straight forward lander or lander/orbiter mission to get hard evidence of an ocean would be the best way to go. At least we would know we are sending a submersible mission to a moon with an ocean then at some point in the future.<br /><br />A lander/orbiter would allow planners to construct a better submersible mission with the knowledge gained during the first mission. It would also allow time for technology to catch up with our hopes for exploring this fantastic place.<br /><br />At present we would have to design a probe to cover every conceivable problem and situation, and even then we may overlook a small detail that could derail the whole thing. It may at the other end of the spectrum be over engineered through lack of local knowledge. It could be loaded up with instruments, or tools it does not need, any number of vital components could be added, or left <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em>"Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star, or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?"</em></font></p><p><font color="#33cccc"><strong>Han Solo - 1977 - A long time ago in a galaxy far far away....</strong></font></p><p><br /><br />Click Here And jump over to my site.<br /></p> </div>
 
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no_way

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>There are extremophiles that tolerate more radiation than most of our electronics. <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br />Hey, i figure we need to teach those little &%$#@!s how to calculate and send radio signals home, and then we dont even need the rad-hardened electronics ! :p<br /><br /><br />But yea, the previous post is correct. Designing and sending a sub to where you _guess_ might be a ocean is pretty silly, not to mention an impossible technical challenge.<br />I mean, we have strong reason to suspect lunar ice at poles, and we have havent sent a lander to this day to find out, or we know a good deal about Venusian atmosphere and we still dont have anything flying around there.
 
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bdewoody

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They haven't sent a probe down to Lake Vostok in Antartica because they are afraid it will be contaminated by microbes riding along. But I agree that first a mission should be mounted to verify the existance of an ocean beneath the ice on Europa before spending the time and money on a submersable only to find it has no place to go. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <em><font size="2">Bob DeWoody</font></em> </div>
 
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centsworth_II

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There is NO WAY that a first mission to Europa will even contemplate<br />an attempt to reach the ocean. There may not even be a lander on the<br />first mission at all, but if there is, the best that can be expected would<br />be an ability to reach one or two meters below the surface to sample <br />ice not ravaged by radiation. And even that is a wildly optimistic hope<br />for a first mission. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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h2ouniverse

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Hi Andrew,<br /><br />in reply to<br />"The basic Mars & Venus Express busses & general configurations would still work. The individual instruments would have to be taylored for the inner Jovian system. ... I do not know how expensive it would be to radiation harden equipment we already have off the shelf? "<br />-------------<br /><br />It is expensive. This is a really big issue. And the positive effect on cost from recurrence comes from a real reuse of design and hardware: change most components, processes and you have to requalify all, at unit, subsystem and system levels... and you lose all in terms of cost benefit.<br />Moreover even the avionics architecture has to be changed. It's not just rad-hardening but also affects H/W redundancy at component and unit level.<br />If this is just for reusing a general physical architecture, then there are other platforms on the shelf and nothing special about MEX/VEX platform (which is relatively limited mechanically btw).<br /><br />Best regards.<br />
 
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h2ouniverse

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in reply to<br />-------<br />"There may not even be a lander on the <br />first mission at all, "<br />---------<br /><br />Very likely indeed. Penetrators would be great though to study the sismic response of the shelf, and are easier (well, relatively easier) to get on-board.<br /><br />Best regards.
 
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3488

Guest
Article & reasonings behind a thick ice crust on Europa.<br /><br />Although the article is dated May 2002, it highlights the possibility that the methods <br />discussed of reaching an ocean, if it exists, are a moot point.<br /><br />The article states that the outer ice shell is at least 25 kilometres thick.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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h2ouniverse

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Very interesting article. I had aleady a relatively thick crust of in mind a range between 10km to 20 km.<br /> That shifts to a range from19 to 25km. Not that much finally.<br /><br />Another reason for a seimological surface measurement.<br /><br />
 
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